The controversial plan purportedly pushed by a Chinese non-government organization to develop the birthplace of Buddha into an international pilgrimage site has not stopped raising eyebrows.
Even as the Nepalese authorities expressed ignorance about the 3 billion dollar Lumbini development project of the Asia Pacific Exchange Cooperation Organisation (APEC) and the subsequent agreement between the organization and the UN’s industrial arm, UNIDO in Beijing, an APEC delegation “force landed” at Lumbini to “survey” the area.
The delegation came close on the heels of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s sudden dash to Kuala Lumpur to “attend” the APEC’s meeting.
Dahal, who is said to be vice chairman of the still mysterious Chinese “non-government” body along with the ousted crown prince Paras and others, was upbeat on return home.
He sought to brush aside the widespread doubts about the multi-billion dollar project and the organization that has been pushing it.
But all the Lumbini-related government offices including the ministers concerned continued to insist their ignorance of the project and the organization.
Then came a report quoting a Madhesi MP, Hridayesh Tripathi, saying that the Chinese ambassador sought support for the project and that an agreement had been signed with the Nepalese Tourism Ministry.
But at a meeting of a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Tourism secretary Ganesh Raj Joshi, denied the existence of such an agreement.
The “left-leaning” foreign minister Upendra Yadav went one step further and was blunt in questioning the very intent of the APEC, “this organization appeared to be underground of the underground.”
The mystery behind the “plan” to convert Lumbini into another Mecca or Vatican of international import in nine years has instead of clearing continues to deepen.
Such a mystery behind the purportedly Chinese project on Nepal’s borders with India may well have wider ramifications.
One wonders, if this is, as one vernacular weekly headlined last week, “War Over The Land Of Peace”?